Finding Each Other in Foreign Lands – Americans vs. Germans

Finding Each Other in Foreign Lands – Americans vs. Germans

Finding Each Other In A Foreign Land - Americans vs Germans

Americans get very excited when they spot someone from their region in a foreign land. The Verlobter and I were at a mall in Kaiserslautern, waiting outside Primark for his family, when a couple came up to us and asked if we were from St. Louis. The Verlobter, you see, was wearing a St. Louis Blues shirt. We informed them that I was from St. Louis, the woman and I briefly exchanged life stories, and then they walked off, never to been seen again. To me, this was a completely normal interaction.

This happens to my grandparents on a fairly regular basis, as they travel a lot and are frequently wearing Cardinals hats and/or shirts – sports teams seem to be the great identifiers. Even on the Great Wall of China, they managed to run into some other St. Louisans, easily identified by Cardinals apparel. Small talk regularly follows.

This is not something a German would do, however. Last summer, while visiting my parents, we noticed some men speaking German at an Adidas store. I tried to get the Verlobter to go over and say hello and he flat out refused. I’m sure it was for the best, because I’m sure they would not have appreciated the intrusion, and Germans don’t really do small talk. Germans will think, “Oh, another German, that is interesting.” Americans want to reach out to each other and embrace the familiar comfort of someone from home in the strange foreign land.

I feel like my reaction is now somewhere in between. I don’t think I would go out of my way to talk to someone who is clearly American just because I am also American. If they seem lost or confused at a train station, I’ll try to help out, but I won’t initiate small talk. However, it doesn’t bother me if another American starts small talk with me. I understand that the familiarity of an American accent can be comforting if you’re experiencing culture shock. It’s really weird, though, when non-American non-Germans, do it though, because my small talk with them seem to always be about American stereotypes, Hollywood, and how old Sylvester Stallone is getting.

Also, I put this in the Weird German Things category, but it is probably actually a Weird American Thing…

5 thoughts on “Finding Each Other in Foreign Lands – Americans vs. Germans

  1. Most Germans I know go out of their way to avoid other Germans. They just assume the other Germans will be obnoxious tourist types and don’t want to get lumped in with them.

    1. I can definitely see this – Americans can also be awful tourists, but I think we tend to be less self aware. 😉 Also I don’t think Germans feel any need to connect with a stranger just because they happen to be from the same country.

  2. Plot your willingness to initiate small talk with suspected fellow countrymen over time. For us, it was a fun slide down the slope to the right.

    Got a trip to the in-laws coming up; I’m already dreading the small talk at Nordstrom or Chipotle or Old Navy.

    1. The last time I was in the US, I dreaded walking into stores. There was one store that was pretty empty and it felt like every single employee asked us if we needed anything even though we clearly turned down the offer from someone else five seconds earlier.

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